On December 8, 2010, a 21-year old Muslim man from Baltimore was arrested after allegedly trying to detonate a fake bomb at an armed forces recruiting center in Catonsville, Maryland (see story on page 1). The case is being called entrapment by many Muslim groups and civil rights organizations. Shortly after the media reported the arrest, one local Muslim organization issued a press release congratulating law enforcement for “arresting the alleged perpetrator” and encouraging members of the Muslim community to report “suspicious activity” to federal authorities. Mauri’ Saalakhan, a local human rights activist based in Maryland, took issue with the press release and submitted the opinion piece below. -- TML.On December 8, 2010, a 21-year old Muslim man from Baltimore was arrested after allegedly trying to detonate a fake bomb at an armed forces recruiting center in Catonsville, Maryland (see story on page 1). The case is being called entrapment by many Muslim groups and civil rights organizations. Shortly after the media reported the arrest, one local Muslim organization issued a press release congratulating law enforcement for “arresting the alleged perpetrator” and encouraging members of the Muslim community to report “suspicious activity” to federal authorities. Mauri’ Saalakhan, a local human rights activist based in Maryland, took issue with the press release and submitted the opinion piece below. -- TML.
Assalaamu Alaikum (Greetings of Peace):
As a matter of urgency, my conscience requires that I respond to an official press release from one of the large centers in the Metropolitan Washington area, in response to the alleged terrorist plot that targeted a military recruitment center in the Baltimore area.
The release in question reminded me of the need to complete an analysis that was already in the works; and of the pressing need for broad-based, and faith-based, internal criticism. (And please know that constructive criticism of my criticism is welcome.)
1. The first mistake made by whoever drafted the press release, is one that U.S. politicians (from both parties) make all of the time; presuming to speak for “the American people.” In this case, our brothers presumed to speak for “the entire Muslim community of the Washington DC Metropolitan Area.” However, in the position they took on the matter, they did not.
2. The second mistake is in commending and congratulating law enforcement agencies before all the facts are in; particularly given the FBI’s track record of using agents-provocateurs to manufacture “conspiracies.”
3. The third mistake is to aid in the cultivation of a culture of suspicion within the Muslim community; causing members of their own community to believe they are fulfilling their patriotic duty (to America) by harboring a suspicious nature, and serving as the defacto eyes and ears of law enforcement. Muslims should NOT be quick to pick up the phone to call the FBI on a fellow Muslim. This should be the absolute LAST resort (after everything else has been attempted and failed) in a case where a Muslim genuinely believes violence may be imminent!
4. The fourth mistake of this misguided release was in calling for the “maximum penalty” for this obviously disturbed and misguided young man (if what has been alleged is true). Are they even aware of what the “maximum penalty” is? Despite the fact that this was an aspirational offense and no one was hurt, if past is prologue, this 21 year old brother will face LIFE IMPRISONMENT (without the possibility of parole)!
I’m going to give my brethren the benefit of the doubt, and presume that they are ignorant as to what the “maximum penalty” is. I’m also going to advise that they break away from their lofty offices from time to time, and visit a federal courthouse or two (and monitor a few of these cases). It may deepen the well of empathy, and curb a few reactionary tendencies.
5. The fifth mistake is in conveying the message that it is somehow noble for Muslim men and women to “faithfully serve in the United States Military.” Given all of the lies, distortions and demonic manipulations which now has the USA embroiled in full scale wars in two Muslim countries, and involved in deadly ongoing skirmishes in a number of other Muslim countries - how could any responsible Muslim promote such insanity?
I feel for the souls of all of the men and women (esp Muslims) who are killing and dying in these unjust wars! As we all should. (Especially considering the Day of Accountability we all must face; wherein ‘I was simply following orders,’ will not be an acceptable excuse.) Our commitment to our faith, and to truth, justice, and the preservation of ALL LIFE, trumps any commitment we have to “country” - i.e. nationalism!
6. The sixth mistake revolves around our penchant for referencing Islam (i.e. Qur’an and Sunnah) when it suits us, but ignoring fundamental precepts when it doesn’t; and so often being selective in our outrage. We claim to be against ALL acts of terrorism, while our government commits acts terrorism everyday and most of us say nothing! We are eloquent when speaking of the sin of taking innocent life, except of course when the innocent life is that of oppressed Muslims in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Palestine or Kashmir. When the bombs are raining down on the heads of Muslims (from the fighter planes, or from the warships of the US, NATO or Israel) a large part of our eloquence and outrage goes into hibernation.
While this writer absolutely agrees with the premise that the terror and brutality visited upon Muslims (in America and other parts of the world) can never justify Muslims lashing out at innocent non-Muslims in kind, I would also argue (in the same breath) that the size and power of the oppressor can never justify silence from a committed Muslim, or even worse, complicity!
7. The seventh mistake made by the drafters of that regrettable release, is in serving on the Advisory Committee to the FBI Washington Field Office (WFO). Given the FBI’s long, regrettable track record in the Muslim community, Muslims serving in any advisory capacity is nothing to boast about (in my humble view). While some of us operate under the illusion that our counter-productive policies, rooted in fear, help to “protect our nation and to protect individual civil rights,” the human rights of Muslims are being trampled under foot on a daily basis (both here and abroad); and the Bill Of Rights - the heart and soul of the U.S. Constitution (for ALL Americans) - is being eviscerated with each passing day!
8. The eighth mistake revolves around an assortment of programs supposedly designed “to prevent extremism.” While many youth-centered programs do indeed serve a positive end, at the end of the day, where it pertains to the threat of radicalization, they are simply inconsequential. Why? Because (a) they ignore hardcore realities; (b) fail to address the legitimate needs and concerns of the most vulnerable segments of the Muslim-American population; (c) and seek to isolate and ostracize the very Muslims in the community who would be most effective in addressing this growing problem.
On a final note I want to share something else that just came to my attention. The Muslim Public Affairs Council released their own statement in response to this latest “terrorist plot.” The final paragraphs of their statement warrant deep reflection (and I congratulate MPAC for making this needed observation):
“...Going beyond asking communities to identify violent extremists, we believe there needs to be a partnership to help communities intervene earlier in the radicalization process and help rehabilitate troubled individuals. If communities were able to address these issues proactively, tension with law enforcement would be greatly minimized. These cases could be prevented in an early stage without sending another person to jail and creating a media circus that harms all of our communities and feeds negative perceptions of Islam and Muslims.
In short, there needs to be a shift in emphasis, both in discourse and action, from relying solely on proactive police investigations to making greater use of proactive community interventions. As one of our nation’s Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” - MPAC News & Views release of 12/10/10 (“When It Comes to Violent Extremism, An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure”)
I couldn’t agree more! This is the message that all of our Muslim organizations, large and small, should be conveying from coast to coast! May ALLAH help us.
In the struggle for peace thru justice,
El-Hajj Mauri’ Saalakhan -- Muharram 4, 1432 / December 10, 2010
Mauri’ Saalakhan runs the Peace Thru Justice Foundation and is the author of “Islam & Terrorism: Myth Vs. Reality”.